The Cowes-Torquay-Cowes powerboat race is back! The past winners of 40 years of this classic race gathered for a nostalgic dinner in Cowes last year to reminisce over an aperitif. Instead, by the time the port was moving to the left, several found themselves on the committee of the newly formed British Powerboat Racing Club.
Powerboat racing has a highly distinguished past in Britain and the fact that the House of Lords was recently purged of a good many of its members is probably not unrelated to this revival. Among those championing the return of this race are The Earl of Normanton, Lord Beaverbrook and Lady Aitken, all former racers.
“This will be a new era for the race which my father started four decades ago,” said Lord Beaverbrook. “We have had a terrific response to the Club and we are committed to bringing back some of the old glory to this historic event. We wish to encourage greater interest and participation in powerboat racing with fresh initiatives such as the entry of production monohulls bringing an exciting new dimension to the sport. We are keen to build on what is already a great event and return to the format of racing so enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike.”
Organiser of the 2001 Cowes Classic Festival, John Walker, said: “This race began as a passage for motor cruisers between Cowes and Torquay – no mean challenge 41 years ago. The most successful of today’s designers, Don Shead, Sonny Levi and Fabio Buzzi, cut their teeth at Cowes and this event has played a key role in developing modern benchmarks of power, structure, sea-keeping and navigation.
“As well as attracting the fastest production monohulls in the world, it is our intention to encourage today’s manufacturers to take up the challenge with their popular production models and open up this race to more boat owners.”
This event is almost tailor-made for manufacturers to parade their shop-tweaked specials: it’s just like a boat show, only exciting. Although nothing has been confirmed to date, there has been ravenous interest from the manufacturers and it seems unlikely that Peter Dredge and his record-breaking Sunseeker XS2000 will be anywhere else but Cowes on 1 September – race day.
“It is fabulous to see this event back in Cowes,” said Dredge. “I competed in the event the last time it was run nearly a decade ago and I will be racing again their this year. It will be interesting to see what impact the new boats will have on the event.”
There’s also talk of a production, or flybridge, class so if you believe you and your boat – be it a 30-year-old Fairey or a 30-day-old Sunseeker – have what it takes to pound your way across 220 miles of Channel and emerge smiling at the end, perhaps you ought to keep free the weekend of 31 August-2 September and get yourself entered.
If you feel a little reticence at the idea of hurling your pride-and-joy headlong into the Channel’s murky green waters, there’s a far more relaxing event the following day. On Sunday 2 September – the final day of the 2001 Cowes Classic Festival – there will be a race around the Isle of Wight.
But if you do decide to throttle up that weekend, you’ll be in auspicious company. As well as rounds of the RYA’s British National Championship, the RHIB World Cup and the Honda Formula 4-stroke and Honda Super Series, the International Endurance fleet of powerboats has selected the 2001 Cowes Classic Festival as the final round of its world and European series of events.